UK snow/slush

I used to love snow. Day off school, etc. Nowadays I hate it though, second only to ice. But snow, you can ride in it, yeah? Slap some wide, knobbly tyres on to your cyclocross/gravel/mountain bike and “hit those trails”!

Who’s awesome? Yeah, we’re awesome. Cycling in the snow is awesome, yeah! (not me, not my photo) ©
Sounds ace. Hit them same day and it’s semi-ace albeit the snow clogs some gears, potholes are hidden, etc. and everyone you see thinks you’re mad. But it’s crisp, kind of predictable.
Wait a day, as it starts to melt & fade. It’s still a snowy ride, only less so. If it’s a sunny winter’s day the full impact of the almighty fiery orb could leave a road almost dry. Where the fiery orb couldn’t reach, like behind hedges, trees or buildings, snowmageddon survives. And everything in between is either wet snow, slush or puddles of icy water. Well, it is until the sun starts to set again, then it’ll turn to ice. And we don’t ride on ice do we?
The metropolis of Market Harborough (pop. 22,911 (2011, add another 5k probably now)) sits almost as far away from the coast as you can get in the UK, and whilst nearby hills top circa 800ft, hasn’t huge absolute altitude (not to be confused with not being hilly, because it certainly is). This means the UK’s snow is usually dumped elsewhere. Not last Monday though, plenty of it arrived, as it has a few times this winter.
Tuesday, my day off. Not been riding much as ice has been way too prevalent for my commutes to & from work. But it’s so lovely out. That sun, the white fields. My newly repaired cyclocross bike with wide(ish) knobbly tyres needs a run out. Let’s “hit those trails” I thought as I covered my expanding gut & bad form in several layers of cycle clothing. I should have put overshoes over my merino socked, mountain bike shoed feet but they’re more “roady” so instead I used 2 dog-poo bags over the socks to make them “water & wind proof”.
Set off. Dry roads. Hit first off road bit. Sloppy, draggy mud/snow mix. Cover shoes in mud. Ankles get wet & cold. The dog-poo-bag protection (doh-pro for short) stops above the foot.
Get to canal. Edges are snowy, but where people have walked & the sun has been, the gravel surface is mainly ice cold water. Naturally this hits my ankles and calves and is to soak in underneath the do-pro & gives the feet something to properly complain about.

Early days as can still feel no frozen pain
Skirt away from the canal on to a bridlepath, thankfully semi-surfaced in gravel, bricks, cowpats & broken asphalt (and near bottom bracket deep puddles) instead of a slog across a muddy field. Unlike the next half a mile.

Nice gravel road but obviously every gate required a full dismount in to mud.
In to a wood, the aim of the ride, so enjoyable mid summer. I’d assumed under the trees would still be dry ish. I was wrong. You could feel the drivechain of the bike, already grumbling, now practically shouting why I thought I could drag young, innocent bike components through ice & snow towards hell, maybe expensive (for me) hell.

Looks nice but that snow is about to attach itself to the ice, mud & bits of snow already on my bike.
So it decided enough was enough. The gear changes became tougher then impossible. Ice had totally frozen the gear cable. I only had one sprocket really anyway, ice & snow filling the gaps between the others. Sn-ice was clinging to the rest of the bike too. The clearances on my cyclocross bike now diminished. I’d best get back as soon as poss & that meant a ride alongside a lesser used, grassy part of the canal, where the off camber mud/ice-fest would have me riding one footed to avoid sliding in to the water (well, at least getting a wet foot, no real drama. The bike veered sideways in a way sadly missed with no cx racing this past year..

Back on gravel-firma the setting sun had reduced temperatures further. Icelets were forming on the spokes. The whole bike was getting extraordinarily heavy from it all. You’d hear the crunch under the tyres before hitting a wet bit again. One such wet bit filled the doh-pros with freezing fluid, carefully retaining the cold fluid against my feet instead of repelling. That was n-ice.
The last slightly downhill, asphalt mile was me stuck in a too low a gear, with a now-also-frozen rear brake, spinning comically quickly. I suppose it at least got the blood flowing. Front brake was alright though, and the bike still steered, so not all bad.

Sadly blurry but you can see the bike is, erm, used.
Home. Frozen. Had to use hot water to de-ice the bike & reduce damage to bearings. Literally cut the ice off using warm water & my hand held, portable jet wash. And the best bit? Shoes so frozen the buckles wouldn’t undo. I had to use tyre levers to chip the ice off before I could start to open the allegedly quick-release buckles and remove my frozen slabs from frozen socks in frozen shoes. That was an extra 10 mins of ice. Which was n-…, lovely.
Best ride in Feb so far.

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